Nine Movies that Killed Real-Life Romances

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Never send your spouse to make a movie with Elizabeth Taylor or Russell Crowe.

Keith Richards' new memoir tells a harrowing story about what happened when his girlfriend, Anita Pallenberg, and his bandmate, Mick Jagger, made a movie together; the resulting affair destroyed the relationship and almost the band. For every Bogart and Bacall, Newman and Woodward, or DeVito and Perlman, there's another on-set hook-up that was more trouble than it was worth. There are lots of proven ways that working on a movie can be detrimental to your relationship, and vice-versa.

1) Cleopatra (1963)


One of the last, legendary epic misfires of the Hollywood studio era, this is remembered as the movie where Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton commenced their star-crossed romance. It simultaneously marked the end of Taylor's very public marriage to the singer Eddie Fisher. Fisher had divorced his wife so that he could immediately marry Taylor, who he'd "comforted" after the death of her husband (and his best friend), Mike Todd. The two of them became punching bags in the national press. Taylor was forgiven her trespasses after a health scare and an Academy Award win for Butterfield 8, but nothing could save Fisher, and the media delighted when Burton cuckolded him. He and Taylor divorced the year after Cleopatra was released.

2) Rosemary's Baby (1968)

Rosemary's Baby

At the request of her husband, Frank Sinatra, Mia Farrow had already quit the TV series Peyton Place when she landed her first important movie role, as the star of Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby. In his autobiography, Polanski wrote that the production was moving along well when a tearful Mia told him that she would have to quit the movie. Sinatra hated the close-cropped hairdo she had had adopted for the part and wanted his child bride (Farrow was thirty years younger) to be with him in the evenings instead of slaving away on some movie set. Polanski told her that she should of course do what she thought best, but based on the rushes of what had been shot so far, he saw magazine covers and Oscar nominations in her future. Polanski wrote that as soon as Farrow heard this, he could tell from the expression on her face that her career was more important to her than making sure that Frank Sinatra's jammies were neatly folded at bedtime.

3) Performance (1970)


This mind-fuck of a movie starred Mick Jagger in his first "acting" role, as a reclusive rock star, and the filmmakers' deal with Warner Bros. stipulated that the soundtrack would include a new Jagger-Richards composition specially written for the film. But Performance costarred Keith Richards's real-life girlfriend, Anita Pallenberg, and Jagger and Pallenberg were said to have really had sex on camera during the filming. There were even reports that somebody got ahold of the hardcore outtakes and edited them into a short film that won a prize at an adult-film festival in Amsterdam.

If you've ever wondered just where Keith Richards draws the line, this was apparently it. Keef allegedly punished his lover and his bandmate by shutting down completely, spending days sitting in the back of a parked car staring straight ahead, refusing to either discuss the matter or accept anyone's apology, and certainly not caring to participate in the writing of any movie music. A distraught Jagger managed, with an assist from Ry Cooder, to finish the Jagger/Richards-in-name-only song "Memo from Turner," the filming was completed, and things went back to normal. Having made his point, Richards maintained a relationship with Pallenberg for another ten years, and his association with Jagger will apparently continue until the end of time.

4) The Last Picture Show (1971)

The Last PIcture Show

When the director Peter Bogdanovich was making his slow, steady crawl up the Hollywood ladder, his wife, Polly Platt, was his secret weapon, an intelligent fellow movie nut who pitched in on his scripts and production designs. She also helped out with the occasional casting suggestion: it was she who spotted Cybill Shepherd on the cover of a magazine and urged Bogdanovich to cast the untried young model as a high school bitch-goddess in The Last Picture Show. After Bogdanovich and Shepherd began an affair on the set of that movie, he and Platt divorced, but Platt hung in there and worked on the director's next two hits, What's Up, Doc and Paper Moon. Not everyone believes that it is a coincidence that they were also his last two hits; he subsequently cratered his and Shepherd's film careers with twin disasters, Daisy Miller and At Long Last Love, intended to showcase his Shepherd's nonexistent talents as an actress-singer-dancer. Bogdanovich later fictionalized his divorce and the career disaster of his run-in with Shepherd in the film Irreconcilable Differences.

5) The Getaway (1972)

The Getaway

To hear him tell it, Robert Evans, the self-styled super-stud producer who was head of Paramount Pitcures in the early 1970s, either got Ali McGraw to marry him so that he could get her to be in Love Story or put her in Love Story so that she'd become a big enough star to be worthy of him. In any case, it worked. After that, it was Evans who, thinking that it would be good for McGraw's career to do something different, insisted that she play Steve McQueen's wife in a romantic action picture, despite her objections that she was frightened of McQueen: something about him made her "nervous." Evans told her to suck it up and dispatched her to the remote Texas locations. Shortly thereafter, the savviest man in Hollywood got the inevitable phone call from his soon-to-be-ex-wife in which she explained to him why it's not a great idea to make your partner perform love scenes with an international sex symbol who, for some reason, makes her feel nervous.

6) Cat People (1982)

Cat People

When director Paul Schrader's garish remake of the horror classic Cat People was released, many observers were surprised by the gratuitous nude footage of its star, Nastassja Kinski. This, it turns out, may have been Schrader's parting gift to Kinski, who broke off an affair with the director once principal filming was completed. According to Peter Biskind's Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, Kinski told Schrader, "Paul, I always fuck my directors, and with you, it was hard." After that, Kinski could be heard tearfully complaining that her former beau was deliberately including all the footage he'd shot of her "down there" in the final cut, despite earlier promises that he would shield her from full exposure. The lesson: there are things it's better not to say until your ex-boyfriend's lease on the editing lab expires.

7) The Boost (1987)

The Boost

Elvis Mitchell described this "Don't do drugs!" melodrama as "the movie where you get to see everything you've never wanted to see James Woods do, and more!" Just about everyone connected to the film's making except for Woods and his co-star, Sean Young, confirmed to the press that Woods and Young had a hot, intense affair during filming. As for what happened after filming — well, Woods and his fiance, Sarah Owen, claimed that Young had deluged them with hate mail, photos of corpses and mutilated animals, and left a grotesquely dismembered doll on their doorstep. After they filed a $6 million harassment suit against her, Young accused Woods of staging an elaborate hoax to punish her for having spurned his advances. The suit was settled out of court, and Young recently blamed the publicity on destroying her career, saying that whenever she's had an audition these past twenty years, all anyone wants to talk about is her and Jimmy Woods. Woods' marriage to Owen ended after five months.

8) Dangerous Liaisons (1988)

Dangerous Liaisons

When this adaptation of the classic French novel Les Liaisons dangereuses was announced, some wondered if John Malkovich was an ideal choice for a character who seduces every woman who crosses his path. Ever the Method actor, Malkovich was quick to demonstrate his rightness for the part by having an affair with his co-star and onscreen romantic partner, Michelle Pfeiffer. This did the movie no harm either critically or commercially, but it did help finish off his five-year-old marriage to the actress Glenne Headly.

9) Proof of Life (2000)

Proof of Life

This action romance starred Meg Ryan as a woman whose husband is kidnapped for ransom and Russell Crowe as the dashing mercenary she hires to rescue him. The emotional core of the story is meant to be the attraction that develops between the wife and the rescuer, which they are too noble to act on. Not so the stars themselves, whose offscreen affair was so exhaustively covered in the tabloids that it made the movie, which featured many smoldering, cow-eyed staring contests between the two, look ridiculous when it opened. It also finished off Ryan's marriage to Dennis Quaid and did no favors for her sweet-widdle-kid image and career in general.